Airbus Helicopters confirmed on 25 February that ground testing has started on the 4t-6t twin-engine X4 family of helicopters, providing a rare glimpse inside its most highly anticipated development programme.
The replacement of the Dauphin helicopter family that will be offered with both Turbomeca and Pratt & Whitney Canada engines is on track for first flight in 2015, says Guillaume Faury, president and chief executive.
“We have a lot of rig tests ongoing,” He says.
The “helicopter zero” simulation rig has entered a test campaign, Faury says, a key step in maturing the flight controls and avionics integration.
Meanwhile, the company also has been working to prepare the unique, all-composite structure of the X4 aircraft. An initial prototype of the fuselage will be delivered later this year, he says.
Another effort is already underway to develop the five-bladed rotor system and a new main gear box, Faury says.
An EC155 flying testbed has accumulated 150 flight hours on the new rotor blade design, he says. Meanwhile, the main gearbox has started endurance testing, he says.
“All of these technologies are made available to increase safety and cost of operation,” Faury says.
Separately, Turbomeca has confirmed completing the first test run of the 1,100shp Arrano 1A turboshaft engine. Pratt & Whitney Canada has already developed the PW210 engine that is also selected for the X4 programme.
The aircraft is being positioned to compete in a market sector between the EC145T2, which is on track for certification in the second quarter, and the EC175, Faury says.
The X4 concept has been in development several years and it predates the recent rebranding of Eurocopter as Airbus Helicopters. As the first new aircraft scheduled to enter service after the rebranding, the X4 will receive a new designation without the “EC” prefix.
But Faury declined requests to identify the new branding of the X4.
“We have to deced on what will be the designation for the Airbus Helicopters aircraft,” he says.